OHL Report: Two Spots Remain in the Western Conference Playoff Picture
With only one weekend remaining in the OHL’s regular season, almost all of the playoff positions have been taken. The Eastern Conference has all eight seeds clinched, with the Ottawa 67’s winning the Hamilton Spectator Trophy, for regular season champions, for the fourth time. However, out West, there is still opportunity for a small handful of teams. Granted, London and Saginaw have separated themselves for the rest of the pack, but there is still room at the bottom of the standings for a couple more teams to find their way into the playoffs.
Erie Otters Need Some Help
The Otters are long passed the days of Connor McDavid and Dylan Strome. Now, they sit on the outside looking in at the playoff picture, currently sitting two points behind the Windsor Spitfires for the eighth and final spot. Since February 1st, the Otters have gone 6-11-1, which on paper may not look impressive, however, they have achieved the exact number of points as Windsor has in the that time span. After missing the playoffs last season after four consecutive appearances, Erie would like to see themselves back in the postseason.
It sure will not be easy, as they will need a bit of luck on their side. It is obvious that Erie needs to sweep the upcoming weekend in order to even have a chance. If they have any hopes of leapfrogging over Windsor, the Spitfires will have to lose one of their two games. With one of those games being against Flint.
Erie will most certainly have their hands full, however. They will be tasked with a home-and-home against the Guelph Storm. The Storm have been one of the league’s best teams after the trade deadline where they acquired players such as Nick Suzuki, Sean Durzi, and Mackenzie Entwistle to name a few. Guelph is strong coming into the weekend as they are winners of nine of their last 11 games, but the Otters have played the Storm close this season. The two losses the Otters have suffered at the hands of Guelph have come in overtime, with Erie winning the other two meetings.
Despite Being In a Tight Race, the Windsor Spitfires Sit Comfortably
Currently holding the eighth spot in the West, the Spitfires are in the stages of a rebuild, and it was made crystal clear when GM Warren Rychel traded star netminder Mickey DiPietro to Ottawa. Since then, the Spitfires have struggled to stay afloat in the West. However, they have played extremely close games over the past month. Yes, the Spits have only won four games since the beginning of February, but five of their 13 losses since have come by way of overtime or shootout. They are riding momentum heading into this weekend after beating the Soo Greyhounds in overtime last Sunday. With being up a pair of points on the Otters, the Spitfires don’t even have to win either of their final two games
Thursday they will take on Flint at home. Despite the Firebirds poor record, they actually have Windsor’s number this season, winning three of the five meetings, including a convincing 4-1 victory just last Saturday. The season series has been a home-dominated series so far, and with the game Thursday night at the WFCU Centre in Windsor, the Spitfires, on paper, have the advantage.
The next night they will travel up and around to Sarnia to take on the team right above them in the standings, the Sting. Sarnia themselves is looking to clinch a spot in the postseason. The Spitfires currently lead that season series, as they are 3-2-1 against Sarnia heading in Friday night.
Sarnia Sting Hold the Cards
Currently seventh in the Western Conference, the Sting are a team that last season that was one of the best in the West. This season, with graduating players and stretches where the team has struggled, they have had to battle for an opportunity to make it to the playoffs. Sarnia currently sits with 59 points, one ahead of Windsor, and three ahead of Erie. The Sting have struggled over the last month or so, as they have only been victorious on three occasions in the team’s last 12 games. What looked like an easy ride to the postseason has now forced Sarnia fans to sit and bite their nails.
What the Sting do have over their two counterparts is that they have a game in hand over both Windsor and Erie. Meaning, they will only need one win to clinch a spot in the postseason. Their next contest will be Friday against Windsor, who will be on a second half of a back-to-back. The Spitfires have won three of the five meetings this season, including winning 7-4 in Sarnia back on February 15th.
Then, the Sting will play a home-and-home against the Flint Firebirds to end the regular season. Flint has been bad to say the least. The Sting have handled the Firebirds at home, winning all three home meetings this season. However, in Flint, the Firebirds have been able to hold their own, winning the last two games against Sarnia on home ice. Flint may hold the advantage, given that the Sting will have to play three nights in a row, while the Firebirds have a day off following their meeting with Windsor on Thursday.
Given that the Sting have a game in hand, and have not lost on home ice to Flint this season, they should easily clinch, and including a win over Windsor on Friday, due to the Spits being on the second half of a back-to-back, they will clinch the seventh-seed in the West.
Unfortunately for Otters’ fans they will not have the chance to see their team in playoffs. Being tasked with winning two games against one of the hottest teams in the league in Guelph seems like it is going to be too much. Giving, by default, Windsor the eighth and final spot in the Western Conference.
Update: Minutes after publishing this article, Flint defeated Windsor in a shootout. The point moves Windsor into a tie with Sarnia, three points ahead of Erie for the final playoff spot.
stats provided by OHL.com